Rhett Miller’s solo albums have had more of a pop-rock flair than the alt-country of his band the Old 97’s. But Miller returns to a twangier sound with “The Dreamer,” his fifth and latest solo studio album. The bouncy album-opening tracks “Lost Without You” and “Long Long Long” are an enticing one-two punch of uptempo Americana, setting the bar high for the rest of the album.
“The Dreamer” mostly delivers, due in large part to the orchestration of these songs. This is the first time Miller has produced one of his albums, and some of the nuances here are outstanding. He has a flair for incorporating female harmonies into his songs; the vocals on “Picture This” and “Love Grows” in particular add warmth and depth to the album. Rosanne Cash joins Miller in a duet on “As Close as I Came to Being Right”; her soft twang combined with a slide guitar give the song a lilting tone that’s as entrancing as it is wistful.
A few awkward turns of phrase (such as the clunky lyric citing “the time-space continuum” in “Sweet Dreams”) and a few snoozer tunes (“Complicated Man” and “Sleepwalkin’ ” particularly drag) prevent “The Dreamer” from being a home run. Still, the best tracks here -- such as the sexy, smoldering “Out of Love” -- show Miller’s prowess at crafting a devastatingly beautiful Americana tune.